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Jamil Steele is a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teacher who uses his art as a form of social activism.
In 2020, as city officials prepared for protests following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Steel painted a Black Lives Matter mural on plywood that had been installed to protect an uptown business — a work later purchased by the Mint Museum. His portraits, murals and illustrations are rooted in Black culture and can be seen throughout the city, including in Levine Children’s Hospital.
Steele said he hoped his Black Lives Matters mural “allows people to sit down and air their grievances and be heard, and also to listen to different points of view.”
What inspires your work?
My work is inspired by several influential people and artists such as my Dad, TJ Reddy, Ernie Barnes, Norman Rockwell, and Kehendi Weliy. I am also inspired to paint visual narratives that honor and inform others about the history, legacy, and challenges marginalized communities of color face daily. Especially those who identify as LGBTQ and our youth.
What makes Charlotte special?
Charlotte is a diverse community with Southern charm and is committed to uplifting all stakeholders, regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation.
Who is/was your greatest inspiration and why?
My greatest inspiration are the students that I teach. It’s important for them to see examples of positive African American men and women making a difference in our community. I am honored to be an example of that for each of them.